I know that trying to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher can be tough. You’re doing everything the experts say, but your students are still arguing with each other and not getting along for other teachers.
If this is you, you’re not alone. Building a positive classroom community as a first year teacher can feel overwhelming when you pair it with the other million tasks teachers are required to do. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be! What if building a positive classroom community was so simple that it was built into your day on autopilot without you having to think about it?
Too good to be true? Well not with these 5 strategies. Today I am going to show you 5 steps you need to take today in order to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher. So grab that coffee and let’s start building the strongest community in the school!
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Establish Rules and Boundaries Early On
The first step you need to take to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher is to establish your rules and boundaries early on. As I talked about in a previous episode, in order for students to excel they need to know what’s expected of them.
Establishing rules and boundaries from the start is key for setting expectations of behavior. Make sure your rules are clear, concise and easy to follow. Involve your students in the process of creating these rules – they will be more engaged, motivated and responsible if they have a say. You should also explain the consequences for breaking rules so that your students know what will happen if they do not comply with them.
Some ways to implement this is to have your students create the rules with you, vote on them, and have them sign the rules. This will allow buy in and will allow your students to feel seen and heard. Overall this is a very important step to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher.
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Foster Positive Relationships With Your Students
The second step to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher is to foster a positive relationship with your students. As I mentioned in this episode of the Present Teacher Podcast, students won’t learn from a teacher they don’t like.
The same goes for building a positive classroom community, it’s hard to have a positive classroom community when the students don’t get along with the teacher. Getting to know your students beyond the curriculum can help you create a nurturing classroom community. Spend one-on-one time with each student to learn about their interests, goals and home life.
When you show your students that you care for their physical, mental and emotional well-being through positive reinforcement they will learn to love not only you but the classroom community as well.
One way to achieve this is do check-ins, leave positive notes, send positive notes home, and compliment your students. Showing that you are available and receptive to talking positively strengthens trust between yourself and your students. Which makes this step essential if you want to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher.
Show Respect by Practicing Active Listening Skills
The third step to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher is to practice active listening. Now let’s be honest, active listening is a skill that is not only difficult for students to master, but for students as well. That’s why it’s so important to practice what you preach and model active listening when your students are talking to you.
Whenever you engage with your students it is important to practice your active listening skills. Whether in small group or one-on-one settings, always keep eye contact and be attentive to details and student emotions. Ask open-ended questions and let the student talk without interruption; frequently check for understanding and restate information shared by the student to confirm understanding. Your recognition of their perspectives will help them feel heard, seen, respected and valued.
You can also have your class practice active listening and redirect them when they are not. Make sure to model what this looks like and sounds like. You can even pause instruction when someone is talking over a friends and say:
“I’m so sorry to interrupt you (insert name), but I see two students who are not practicing actively listening. Let’s wait until they show us that they are ready to actively listen.”
This is a great skill for not only adults but students as well and it’s a great next step to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher.
Create a Safe Haven for Sharing and Expressing Feelings
The fourth step to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher is to create a safe space to share feelings and expressing them. Students will not help build a positive classroom environment if they feel like their feelings will not be validated. That’s why it’s so important to make sure all feelings and thoughts are validated in the classroom.
Allowing students to share and express their feelings in a safe and respectful environment is essential for creating a positive classroom community. As teachers, it’s our job to create an atmosphere that is open and welcoming to all types of perspectives. However, it’s also important to establish ground rules and expectations with your students that emphasize respect at all times, so they feel comfortable speaking openly without feeling judged.
It’s important to encourage them to be flexible, creative, tolerant and compassionate with one another. One way to achieve this is to do a bucket filler lesson where you talk about bucket filling and bucket dipping. We also talk about inside versus outside voices and what to say to comfort a friend. If you want more support in teaching these kinds of lessons check out these resources.
All in all, creating a safe space for students to feel seen, heard and validated is essential if you want to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher.
Create Opportunities for Collaboration and Teamwork
The final step to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher is to create opportunities to collaborate and teamwork. When you allow students to collaborate you are allowing them to learn important interpersonal skills as well as the ability to talk more in a structured way. So if you have a chatty class you definitely want to be doing this!
Creating opportunities for students to collaborate and work together is a great way to foster a positive classroom community. Through team-based activities, students will learn how to better communicate and rely on one another, while also getting the chance to get to know each other in an educational setting.
You can assign tasks and projects that require students to work with others or divide the class into smaller groups and have them come up with creative solutions to different problems. Another great way is to have students “teach” each other important points as you teach. This will encourage responsibility, critical thinking, and problem solving skills all while building relationships between your students. And what better way to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher.
In summary, in order to build a positive classroom community as a first year teacher you need the following steps:
- Establish Rules and Boundaries Early On
- Foster Positive Relationships With Your Students
- Show Respect by Practicing Active Listening Skills
- Create a Safe Haven for Sharing and Expressing Feelings
- And Finally to Create Opportunities for Collaboration and Teamwork
All of these are a great way to build a classroom community so that you and your students will enjoy coming to school and have a community so strong it will feel like a family.
Which strategy are you going to incorporate to build a positive classroom community? I would love to hear your thoughts!